Week 7: “Peacock Orchids”

This is the 7th week of Learn the Flowers CSA and I’m really excited to tell you about everything in your bouquet this week!  Many of you are already familiar with the CSA business model, but I will refresh you just in case you forgot.  The letters CSA stand for community-supported agriculture which involves paying a flat rate up front to your local farmer, then receiving a specific number of weeks-worth of product.  The most popular CSA model is selling vegetables and in the case of Learn the Flowers CSA, it means getting up to 8-weeks-worth of fresh, local flowers.  By investing ahead of time, you, the CSA member, commit to receive a certain amount of local product (and support your local farming economy) and the diversity of the product available is affected by that particular season’s weather.  The available diversity is also based on what grows best during different parts of the season.  For instance, at the beginning of your CSA membership, the delphinium was blooming in full force so for a couple weeks you got to take some home in your bouquet.  Now that the weather is consistently hotter, the delphinium is gone and the dahlias are starting to bloom.  During the first week of the CSA there were more seed pods, foliage and vines in the field. Now those things are waning and the celosia and zinnias are blooming in full force.  So I’m sure there have been weeks that you’ve really loved what was in your bouquet and other weeks where you may have been less enchanted by the selection.  By supporting a local CSA, you make a choice to value and take interest in the products that your local farms can produce! (which is super awesome)

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So in this hot August weather, with excitement, I introduce you to the array of flowers, grasses, and berries that made it into your bouquet this week:

Cosmos – White, burgundy or pink bloom, yellow center (single, double, or hollow petals)

Celosia- The pastel pink and/or green, spiky blooms

Zinnia (Zinderella Peach & Lilac variety)- Pastel orange, purple and/or pink variety of zinnia

Zinnia- (Persian Carpet) Small-headed, bi-colors in red, mahogany, yellow, chocolate and cream

Dahlia (Ball type)-  Coral/pink bloom with lime/yellow center (pronounced Dahl-ee-ah)

Ruby Silk Grass (Eragrostis tef)- Ruby-colored grass

Millet- The tall, thick, seeded head

Lily- Large white bloom (may still be closed in a large pod)

Vibernum dentatum “Chicago Lustre”- Blue berries (not for eating) not to be confused with blueberries

Digitalis (aka Foxglove)- Purple or white multi-flowered stalk of blooms

Amaranth- Coppery seeded flower head

Acidanthera-  Six-petaled, white flower with burst of purple in the center

I will focus on Acidanthera, Vibernum and Digitalis in the journal this week!

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Acidanthera has the common name Peacock Orchid and is technically a Gladiola variety.  Make sure you take a whiff of this delicate-petaled flower because it has a subtle, sweet scent that’s really nice.  Acidanthera, just like any other Gladiola does not overwinter in this zone, so the corms (similar to bulbs) have to be dug up at the end of the season and and re-planted the following spring. (since their corms are fairly inexpensive, we let them freeze/rot in the ground over the winter and then buy new corms to plant the following season)  When you see these growing in the field you can immediately recognize its similarity to Gladiolus because it grows from a crunchy, thick, sharp stalk.  When the open flowers on your stems start to die, you can pull off the dead head and observe another bud on the same stalk start to open.  In previous years, I’ve experienced difficulty in getting this thick, green stalk to bloom, but this season, we moved their bed to a new spot in the field with better drainage and they are blooming like crazy! I really like to use these flowers to design with because they have an upright, straight quality to them as well as a gentle, sloping shape at the place where the stems form flower heads. It’s also just nice to add this to the list of flowers that bloom in the late-summer heat.

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This particular Viburnum dentatum (“Chicago Lustre”) took many years to get established before it started making these beautiful blue berries!  In the spring, this variety of Viburnum makes a soft, spread-out head of white flowers and during much of the rest of the year, it has a lovely, green foliage to offer.  Towards the end of summer, uncut flowers transform into these beautiful dark berries that look delicious, but shouldn’t be eaten raw!  The birds do seem to love them though, so now that the berries are in full bloom, we may need to start harvesting them all before they disappear.  There are hundreds of varieties of Viburnum and overall, this plant is a really great perennial to invest in because of its combination of fragrant flowers, textured foliage, and berries (in some cases) that can be cut and used throughout the growing season.  

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Digitalis is commonly known by the name of Foxglove and the variety in your bouquet is called “Foxy.”  Most varieties of digitalis are biennials and produce only foliage the first season.  The following season brings about tall stems and flowers!  For this reason, it feels really special when it finally blooms the second season after an entire season of just making low, thick foliage and no blooms.  Unfortunately, this flower’s unique beauty lies in contrast to its toxicity and should definitely not be ingested in any form.  Despite its toxicity if consumed as is, there are active compounds extracted from this plant’s second year of leaves, that are then used in medicines to treat congestive heart failure and irregular heart rhythm.  Still, there seems to be a fine line between useage as a medicine for heart problems and toxic levels of digitalis.  Don’t let the facts scare you away from liberally using this flower to design with because it’s descending bell-shaped flowers on stems that sometimes bend and reach in the nicest way, are one of my favorites!

I really enjoyed the assembly of these bouquets because some of my favorite late summer/fall flowers got to make an appearance.  I hope you will enjoy, display and feel inspired by these beauties this week!  (Also, don’t forget that next week is the last week of the CSA!)

 

 

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